EpiSurveyor and the Call For Open Source Mobile Healthcare Applications

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 28, 2009

Have you ever heard of EpiSurveyor? It's an open source tool designed to allow anyone in the world to create handheld data entry forms, use them to collect data on mobile devices, and transfer the data to other devices for analysis. Developed by Dr. Joel Selanikio (shown), it's widely used in public health efforts all around the world, for disease surveillance and collecting public health data. Today, the Lemelson-MIT Program has announced that Selanikio is the recipient of its 2009 $100,000 Award for Sustainability for his contributions to public health. Here is what's significant about EpiSurveyor, and how there is room for open source apps like it.

As people all around the world increasingly tote mobile devices, their smartphones, netbooks and other gadgets also become increasingly potentially potent as data collection devices, and collecting health data is a good application of this concept. I've written before about how the open source community could have a big impact on the new wave of "doctor apps" for mobile devices. When Apple showed off its early version of the iPhone 3.0 operating system recently, it also showed applications designed to monitor the blood pressure and glucose levels of iPhone owners, and send the data off to remote doctors. Many more of these applications are on the way.

Dr. Selanikio, with his EpiSurveyor application, appears to be right on top of these trends, and he created a useful open source application that can improve public health efforts on behalf of others. Consider this from the announcement of his award:

"With the proliferation of mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), Selanikio recognized the potential of handheld computers in dramatically improving the data collection process. “I set out to develop software that was extremely simple to use; taking the skills, expertise and capacity that previously came with hiring a consultant and instead, put the necessary tools into the hands of the actual public health officer, nurse or physician,” states Selanikio. “I was determined to make the software both free and open source, so as not to raise barriers to data collection.”

The announcement also points out that in developing parts of the world where laptops and computers are less prevalent, mobile devices such as cell phones are still in wide use. EpiSurveyor is being especially widely used in Africa, but is also in use in Indonesia and many other parts of the world. Interested parties can download it here, and also download a manual for it. There are also videos showing field tests of EpiSurveyor.

Congratulations to Dr. Selanikio on a well-deserved award.